Aging Well: Wisdom, Understanding, and Long Life

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BY JOY W. COLE |

Is not wisdom found among the aged?
    Does not long life bring understanding? – Job 12: 12

In 2014, the Board of Cooperative Ministries established a group to address the needs of the older adults in the Southern Province. Thus the Aging Well Team came into being. Our first item of business, of course, was to clarify our purpose, which is to help congregations recognize the need for and find meaningful ways of providing programing and resources for their members who are older adults, as they age and deal with a variety of challenges.

So, how do we define “older adult?” Is it someone who uses the “over 55” Senior Discount? Someone retired? Someone celebrating their 90th birthday? Now that the experts are saying middle age is 53, where does that put “older adults?” Most of us feel like older adults some days and younger adults other days! My father, at age 85, claimed he felt like he was 35. With the average age of Southern Province Moravians being 63, we do know they are approaching some challenging years – from what to do after retirement to how to stay healthy to caring for parents, spouses, or grandchildren.

older adult playing piano

In the Team’s initial discussions about the various needs of older adults, one major priority was to provide some sort of organized support system for our members. With that idea in mind, the BCM asked the Rev. Tim Byerly to work with our Team in developing a small group discipleship model for congregations. The Living Faith model for groups of 5 or 6 focuses on both spiritual growth and outreach in congregations. You will be hearing more about this in the future. The Team is very excited about this and we have enjoyed working with Tim on the project.

Forty years ago, the late Rev. Lew Swaim started the Provincial Senior Friends Advisory Council, created to support congregational senior friends groups. Many congregations still have an active Senior Friends ministry. The Aging Well Team is now responsible for two of the Advisory Council’s annual traditions. One is the Older Adult Fall Rally. Earlier in October, 120 older adults representing 20 congregations attended the Fall Rally at Fairview Moravian Church. It was a wonderful time of fellowship – a true Moravian reunion. The other tradition is the Older Adult Spring Retreat.  The Aging Well Team is making plans for a different approach to the retreat, hosting a one-day event offering sessions addressing the interests and ideas of the Fall Rally participants. Mark your calendars for Saturday, April 22nd, 2017 at Friedberg Moravian Church. (This will take the place of the retreat at Laurel Ridge in 2017.) We pray this will be a meaningful experience for many of us.

One of our recent projects was to establish an Older Adult Liaison for each of our 54 churches of the Southern Province. Designed to foster better communication with the churches about older adult issues, this position takes the place of the Senior Friends representative. In some churches it is still the same person. The Aging Well Team sends emails to the Liaisons about upcoming provincial activities, free health screenings, health fairs, free flu shots, etc. and any information that we feel would benefit older adults in our churches. (Although chicken pie and country ham play an important role in our lives, that kind of event will not be advertised via the Liaison.) The Liaisons will share the information we send out with their pastor and congregation. We are also asking the Liaisons to become more aware of events and opportunities offered for older adults in their community and share them with their congregation.

Being an older adult can be both challenging and exciting. With guidance from the One who loves us and cares about our needs, the Aging Well Team plans to address those needs and interests through our congregations as life goes on.

The righteous will flourish like a palm tree,
    they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon;
planted in the house of the Lord,
    they will flourish in the courts of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age,
    they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright;
    he is my Rock!” – Psalm 92: 12-15


If you have questions or need additional information, email (joycole14ATgmail.com) or call the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries at (336) 722-8126.

Joy W. Cole is a member at Unity Moravian Church and volunteers her time with the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries’ Resource Center. 

Joy W Cole

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Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

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BY BETH HAYES | 

Milestones as Stepping Stones in Your Faith Journey

I just returned from a symposium in Connecticut done by Lifelong Faith Associates on families at the center of faith formation. It was quite the experience to be in a beautiful fall setting where leaders in churches from different denominations gathered to brainstorm. In our brainstorming, we planed ways for our congregations to celebrate family and help families to be more intentional about faith formation in their homes. More and more I realize that faith formation is not solely a congregational responsibility nor totally a home responsibility, but the two places working together.

The conference gave me many things to ponder, but most helpful was a reintroduction to “milestones ministry.” It is an essential tool for faith formation in the twenty-first century. Simply put, this ministry nurtures Christian faith, strength, and relationships. In churches and homes, it provides a way to reach out to others with the love of God in very simple and practical ways for all generations. Visit the website milestoneministry.org to read and learn more about church and home being vital places in the world. It is based on five important principles:

  • Faith is formed through relationships. Milestones Ministry brings a cross generational community together to nurture the Christian faith.
  • It is a primary partnership between the ministry of the home and the ministry of the congregation. Each module helps people practice faith with the support of a congregation and in and through ones homes.
  • It honors home as church too. It lifts up daily life relationships, especially parents and other adult mentors.
  • Faith is caught more than it is taught. It models the faith through cross generational experiences and faith practices.
  • If we want Christian children and youth, we need Christian adults around them.

There are five steps to generate a specific milestone memory. You need to first name it – identify meaningful, memorable moments. Then you need to equip it – provide faith practices. A blessing comes next as you offer a prayer. It needs a visual reminder… so gift it. The last step is to reinforce it, by following up to firmly root it in faith.

Children's Festival

Children’s Festival and Lovefeast. August 2016. Photo by Suzy Tucker.

About two years ago, the Children and Family task force produced a piece called Moravian Milestones and Stars. We visited every Regional Conference of Churches and gave a notebook to each church to have. Included are age level breakdowns of what Moravians could be expected to know at each age level. The second half of the piece is a resource from Milestones Ministries where specific milestones such as baptism, mission trips, going off to college, empty nesting and many more are described and ways to celebrate these times both in church and in homes. If you have misplaced the notebook or need another copy, all you need to do is ask me for a replacement.

I have heard some beautiful stories about how milestone ministries are carried out in specific churches. One congregation adorns their hallways leading to the various classrooms with ribbons for each individual. When a milestone is reached and celebrated, a star is placed on the ribbon. Some churches give a bowl or basket at baptism. For each celebration of a specific milestone, a particular stone with the image of that milestone on one side and scripture on the other is given to put in the bowls. An illustration of the rocks is shown. A friend of many of our educators has covenanted to spend her retirement painting these milestone rocks. If you are interested in the rocks, you may contact me and I will put you in touch with Libby Welter or you may email her at libbywelter[AT]gmail.com and tell her what you are wanting.

My next move to encourage our congregations and families is to create some Moravian specific milestones like a first lovefeast, first Easter sunrise service, first Laurel Ridge experience, or first Children’s Festival. You will hear more to come in the next few months as we continue to brainstorm together and create new milestones. Until then, consider beginning this all important ministry in your congregation. You can contact me (Beth Hayes) for help in getting it started. As you continue to see the importance of church and families at home working together, check out the website and Facebook page for Roots and Wings where we will continue to link you to important articles and websites that could be helpful.

And remember this passage from Deuteronomy 6:6-7 as the basis for the importance of this ministry.

 

                                    “Memorize his laws and tell them to your children

                                    Over and over again. Talk about them all the time,

                                    Whether you’re at home or walking along the road

                                    Or going to bed at night or getting up in the morning.”

(Common English Version)


If you have questions or need additional information, email (bhayesATmcsp.org) or call the Resource Center (336) 722-8126.

Beth Hayes is the Director of Congregational Ministries and Resources, Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM). Below, Beth appears with her sister, aunt, and cousin along with the family Bible.  

Looking at a Bible

Ending Poverty In All Its Forms

Sunnyside Ministry BY DAVID HOLSTON |

“Our Lord Jesus entered into this world’s misery to bear it and to overcome it. We seek to follow Him in serving His brothers and sisters. Like the love of Jesus, this service knows no bounds. Therefore we pray the Lord ever anew to point out to us the way to reach our neighbors, opening our hearts and hands to them in their need.”
Ground of the Unity, #9

We live in a world of great opportunity, where you can enjoy a long and happy life. We also live in a world where the idea of a long and happy life to some is merely a dream.

I think a lot about the word “poverty.” Merriam-Webster provides this as a simple definition of poverty: “the state of being poor, a lack of something.” A lack of something. What is it that people are lacking? It should be easy to see and to bring an end to material poverty. People need something; we just give it to them and we have fixed the problem. It should be that simple. People are homeless; give them a home and the problem goes away. Right?

This world would be a different place if it were that easy to end poverty. After World War II, the World Bank worked on poverty alleviation in third world countries, but without much success. They asked over 60,000 people about poverty, and the results were published in a three-volume collection entitled “Voices of the Poor.” Here are some of the responses:

“Poverty is like living in jail, living under bondage, waiting to be free.” — Jamaica

“Poverty is lack of freedom, enslaved by crushing daily burden, by depression and fear of what the future will bring.” — Georgia

“If you want to do something and have no power to do it, it is talauchi (poverty).” — Nigeria

“A better life for me is to be healthy, peaceful and live in love without hunger. Love is more than anything. Money has no value in the absence of love.” — a poor older woman in Ethiopia

“When one is poor, she has no say in public, she feels inferior.” — a woman from Uganda

“For a poor person everything is terrible – illness, humiliation, shame. We are cripples; we are afraid of everything; we depend on everyone. No one needs us. We are like garbage that everyone wants to get rid of.” — a blind woman from Tiraspol, Moldova(1)

reception

Sunnyside Ministry

Notice that none of these people described poverty as simply the lack of food, housing or money. They describe poverty as “the lack of something” bigger, in most cases — a sense of power over one’s own life. A sense of empowerment and self-sufficiency enables people to repair and improve their lives and that of their families. The phrase “a hand up, not a hand out” has been used by different non-profits for decades, so long that the original source seems to be lost. And while this rolls off the tongue, it is a difficult message to put into practice. But it is what we must do if we truly believe that part of our mission is to improve the lives of others.

A lack of something.

Do we see the poverty that is in our neighborhoods, offices, schools and yes, even our churches? You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in my office; our salaries enough for our employees to live on. You may say to yourself, there is no poverty in our neighborhood; it is full of nice homes. You may say to yourself there is no poverty in our church; we are a good church with nice families and everyone is well off.

I had a distant cousin that passed away in the 1990s. She was nearly 100 years old and still lived alone. She lived for decades as a widow after her husband was killed in a farming accident. She did not drive. Other cousins took her to church, to the grocery store. She was not wealthy, but had income from land leased to other farmers. She gardened and canned vegetables she grew. Now I realize that she suffered from social or isolation poverty. When I was about 10 years old, I mowed her small yard, which didn’t take long. She would sit and visit with me, asking about vacation or school, and this made her very happy. These conversations were a source of poverty alleviation for her, as they filled that “lack of something.”

“I like money and nice things, but it’s not money that makes me happy. It’s people,” says one woman in the World Bank survey. She’s not alone: research has found that social integration is more important for well-being than income, and also decreases poverty. Loneliness, conversely, can be deadly: one study found it did more damage to health than smoking.(2)

My cousin lived a long life. As I think of her, I remember a woman alone, in a house with a parlor never used. If more people had taken the time to visit her, how would her life have been different? If I stopped by and visited her more often, how would our lives have been different? Would those later years have been less of a struggle? What could I have learned from her? Is that not a part of what church is or should be — caring for others, seeking to find and fill the need that is lacking?

First we must examine our own poverties, whatever they are: hunger, poor health, addiction, loneliness, mental health or illness and so on. Then we look to move ourselves out of the poverty that grips us, by seeking the help of our own congregations, our fellow Jesus followers. We as the people of Christ, who are the Church of Christ, must welcome, uplift and empower each other out of our own poverties. And then as a church through the command of Christ in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Sunnyside Ministry has a financial literacy program called Gaining Control. I recently asked one of the graduates what they got out of this program. She responded, “You all gave me back my self-esteem, and made me feel like I could really change my life. I wish that I could do that class all over again, it made me feel so good.” I like to think that our work helped her regain her innate sense of self-worth and equipped her with skills to take control of her life and move herself and her family out of poverty.

I believe that what will bring an end to poverty is simply this: empowering people to greater self-confidence and greater self-sufficiency, so that they are able to be independent of assistance. And through this improved sense of self, they are able to enter into rewarding relationship with their neighbors, enact change in their neighborhoods and beyond and live without the stress that accompanies any type of poverty.

Taking care of each other in our poverties is what Christ calls us to do. When we lift each other out of our individual poverties, we open our lives to the rewards offered in the Jeremiah 29:11, “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

Questions? Or want to learn more about Sunnyside Ministry or possibly volunteer? Contact David Holston at david(AT)sunnysideministry.org.

David Holston is the Director of Sunnyside Ministry under the Moravian Church of America, Southern Province 


(1) Listen to the Voices. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTPOVERTY/0,,contentMDK:20612465~menuPK:336998~pagePK:148956~piPK:216618~theSitePK:336992~isCURL:Y,00.html

(2) With a little help from my friends. (2015, June 6). Retrieved from http://www.economist.com/news/finance-and-economics/21653680-poverty-about-who-you-know-much-what-you-earn-little-help-my

Images via Sunnyside Ministry.

 

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Seven

BY TIM BYERLY |

This is the 7th post in this blog about Living Faith, a model of congregational life that has been developed by the Board of Cooperative Ministries of the Moravian Church, Southern Province. If you’ve been sticking with me throughout this discussion, thank you. If you haven’t, you can find the previous posts here (part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6).


How many times have you participated in a worship service—and then left with a sense of transformation in your life? Not necessarily a conversion experience, but definitely a moment of growth or transformation? When you were different in a good way than when you arrived at the service? And the difference did not fade away as life’s challenges distracted you from a good and holy experience? How recent was the last time you felt something like this?

In the first post in this blog about Living Faith, I wrote about my belief that God calls the Church to be involved in three basic activities:

1) provide for the spiritual growth of its members,

2) find ways to do outreach in the surrounding community and the world, and

3) regular times of worship.

Everything else the Church does is probably good but is not essential to its calling, or could be grouped under one of these three callings.

Most of this blog has focused on how to encourage spiritual growth in our congregations. That’s the main objective of Living Faith. However, in post #3 I described how outreach fits into the Living Faith model. One thing that I haven’t discussed is the inter-relationship between Living Faith and worship. They have a profound impact on each other.

Since I am a pastor, it may surprise you to learn that I think the power of worship to bless us and Living Faith Small Group Ministrytransform us is not dependent on a good sermon or worship leadership. Musicians may be troubled to find that I would say the same about music. Don’t misunderstand me–these are critical to good worship. They enable us to draw near to God in worship and to experience and express our faith. If this is happening, then you will wonder what else I want out of worship. I want to be transformed; I want to be blessed in ways that will stay with me when I get to Monday, and to Wednesday, and to days that are darkened by my burdens. Great sermons and music aren’t enough for me. Nor are liturgies and prayers and even Scripture readings. All of these are essential. Without them, worship is not worship. But I need something more to make worship transformative.

I need the bonds of fellowship with those who sit with me in worship. Not friendliness, but fellowship. I need something more than the smiles and handshakes exchanged before and after we worship. I need to be in worship with those who’ve shared life with me, who know me, and I them. Living Faith enables relationships like this to flourish. This happens as people walk together in faith in Living Faith groups. Then it happens as these small groups reach out to impact the world in ways they feel the Spirit guiding them. In such fellowship we learn about each other, and we love each other just as we are. We do this not with excessive emotion but with strong bonds of friendship.

I am imaging sitting in worship near three or four people I know well. We’ve become friends that talk through our thoughts about faith with each other and have encouraged each other. We’ve done projects together in service to Christ. We’ve learned give and take in our relationship. There may be 500 other people worshiping with us, but the other 495 don’t affect me as much as those few that I know so well. As we worship, I see their faces; I hear their voices. I’m recalling conversations and experiences that we have shared. The service progresses, and I feel a sense of unity with these who know me as we seek God’s presence together. This makes worship transformative. I am lifted to God by worshiping with those who’ve shared sacred experiences with me. And these experiences come from our times of fellowship and service as one body.

That’s what happens when we come together in a small gathering like a Living Faith group. Who would like to help develop such a community of faith? I would love to hear from you.


Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly

Living Faith Small Group Ministry: Part Five

In the previous installments of this blog (part 1, 2, 3, 4,), I’ve written about our need for a greater focus on spiritual growth in our churches. I’ve discussed the key components of Living Faith that facilitate spiritual growth. One thing I haven’t discussed is the center of all of these discussions–not the ‘how to’ of spiritual growth, but the ‘what exactly is’ spiritual growth. It’s time for a good examination of spiritual growth to discover what we’re hoping to achieve.

We should start by considering what isn’t spiritual growth—

  • Spiritual growth or maturity isn’t eloquence in speaking about faith. This is true whether that speech is a sermon, a prayer, comments in a discussion, dynamic teaching, or encouragement offered to another person. Jesus talked about people who pray publicly, and his words were not very affirming. He might offer the same comments about prayers than impress us today. The person praying might be moving and ‘spot on,’ but that doesn’t mean the person is in touch with God. It simply means that the person does well talking about being in touch with God.
  • Spiritual growth doesn’t equate with a high level of commitment. Sometimes it’s said of a person that he or she will do anything he or she is asked, or that the person gives generously. These are great practices, but they don’t reflect the spiritual condition of the person. The person might be head-over-heels in love with Christ, but a high level of commitment to doing good doesn’t prove this. There are a lot of other incentives for deep involvement in church activities such as guilt relief, recognition, influence, or approval. None of these will bring a person closer to God or instill Christ’s image in them.
  • Talents don’t prove this either. A singer might be able to amaze a crowd. A youth leader might be able to draw young people like bees to honey. An officer on a church board might be able to motivate the congregation or manage the work of a board in impressive ways. But none of these abilities demonstrates spiritual maturity and growth.
  • Spiritual gifts don’t guarantee spiritual growth. They receive a lot of attention in the New Testament, and they are emphasized in some denominations, much less so in the Moravian Church. Some see them as a litmus test of godliness, but nothing supports this conviction.

But enough about what spiritual growth/maturity/life isn’t. It’s time to think about what it is—

  • Galatians 5 is a good place to start. Paul writes about the fruit of the spirit. That’s always intrigued me. I read the names of the fruit, but what does that look like in a person’s life? I have not grown tired of pondering this question about people, and about myself.
  • Fruit, not fruits. There are nine names given to the spirit’s fruit in Galatians, but fruit is singular. It’s like they come as a set. If you have a basket on the table with an assortment of fruit in it, you don’t talk about how nice the fruits look. You talk about the fruit. The Galatians 5 passage is like a prism that refracts the light of spiritual fruit into 9 colors that enables us to understand it better. But it’s one fruit. It’s one image of Christ that is revealed in different ways depending on the situation. Can you imagine having love without gentleness, or patience without peace, or joy without self-control? Of course not, because it’s one fruit–the fruit of the spirit. We can’t focus on achieving one or the other like it was a New Year’s resolution. Instead, we focus on Christ, and the fruit of Christlikeness begins to develop in us.
  • Philippians 4:4-9. Before you read further, read these verses. Go ahead, I’m serious. Just don’t forget to come back and finish reading this post.

The word, fruit, isn’t included in these verses, but its imprint can be seen all over it. It talks about a frame of mind which allows for and fosters spiritual growth and maturity.

By now you’d be right to wonder what this has to do with Living Faith which we’ve been developing. The goal or focus of Living Faith is this spiritual fruit/growth/maturity. This model of church life makes this kind of vibrant spiritual life possible. Spiritual life doesn’t happen because we decide to pray more or serve more. It happens when we help each other discover God’s work in our lives.

That’s the point of Living Faith. Even the most dedicated introvert (like me) needs fellowship with others to grow toward Christ. No one does this alone. Even monks living in solitude depend on the sense of fellowship they have with those who live that same disciplined life.

If you want to have a deeper spiritual life, work at it with others who are also focused on the same thing. Living Faith can guide you in that. Gradually, you’ll find the fruit developing in your life that Paul discusses out of his own experience.

Questions? Or want to learn more about Living Faith? Contact Tim Byerly at tlbyerly1971(AT)gmail.com.

The Rev. Tim Byerly is the Special Project Manager for Living Faith Small Group Ministry under the Moravian Board of Cooperative Ministries (BCM)

Tim Byerly